How to stay more productive? And why time-management isn’t the right answer.

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Nowadays we receive 5 times more information on a daily basis than just a few decades ago. We are expected to juggle many different roles and responsibilities and we constantly feel that we should be more productive.

There is a bit of a paradox here that people believe in. We feel we should work more and faster in order to be more productive. If you are a factory worker that’s probably the case but in most other jobs in order to be more productive we need to SLOW DOWN!

When did time start to matter to people SO MUCH? I find history quite fascinating so let’s just go through a few interesting facts:

  • In 1275, the first mechanical clock was invented in England. The oldest working clocks usually did not have any face and told the time by striking the hours.
  • Pocket watches started to be produced in the 16thcentury but showed only hours. Minute hands were added to the clocks in the 1680s. Then the second hands were added around 10 years later.
  • Mass production of watches started in the 19th century and was related to industrial changes.
  • The first wrist watches were wore by women and often used rather as a piece of jewellery than a device to measure time.

Apparently before people used watches If they wanted to tell how long something may take they would describe it by giving an example of an activity that was well known e.g. “like eating a banana”, so then everyone knew that they meant a very short period of time.

Time management used to be crucial in the industrial economy but nowadays, in the knowledge economy (when we use our knowledge to create values and products), it is ONLY ONE OUT OF A FEW important factors which can improve our effectiveness, productivity and work-life balance.

Actually managing your energy and tasks is a lot more important than time-management. Instead of worrying about passing hours and days and how we can squeeze more tasks into small blocks of time, we need to divert attention into more significant aspects, more innovative techniques and solutions which can help in achieving optimal productivity.

We feel most productive when we do a lot of things and work longer hours. Many people think then that to accomplish more you need to put more effort in, sleep fewer hours and work additionally at weekends, to be always ahead of competition! There is a bit of truth in it. Nothing that’s great comes easily and if you want to have exceptional results you need to put a lot of work and energy into whatever you are doing – writing a book, working on your business plan or creating a project for your university course or work. However, working more hours won’t make you more productive. Studies found that we should work, ideally, 35-40 hours a week in order to achieve the best results. Working more than that may work for very short periods of time—for example, a few days—but in the long-term working a lot will make you exhausted and depressed and you are at high risk of burnout. To be more productive focus on slowing down MORE!

Remember about regular breaks and getting 7-8 hours of sleep everyday as well. We all seem to know these simple rules but they are neglected by SO many of us!

Time usage is vital in our lives (that’s why we all keep looking at watches, and the most popular word in the English language is…time!) so I don’t want to say that this is not important but there seem to be other more crucial factors which can decide how effective, productive and successful we are. Focus on managing your energy levels and attention and consider how you can avoid distractions. Also, focusing on the right tasks seems a straightforward rule but is often neglected by many people who instead of spending some time on reflection, prioritising, planning and reviewing try to do more tasks and take work home.

What do you do to boost your productivity?

 

Productive Mondays! How many hours should we work, ideally?

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We often confuse productivity with being busy. What exactly does it even mean? We feel productive when we are very busy, when we have a lot of tasks and complete most of them. Usually the more hours we work, the more productive we feel.

HOWEVER

There has been plenty of research where findings show that if we work too many hours we decrease our productivity A LOT!

What’s more, if we work a lot of hours for a few weeks or more – that’s just a perfect recipe for depression, burnout and anxiety which may even lead to a nervous breakdown!

Labour Economics published an article by Collewet and Sauermann where the researchers outlined their study done on call-centre workers. Even with part-time employees, increasing their number of working hours created more fatigue than productivity! (more about this study here )

Too few hours = we won’t achieve much.

Too many hours = we are tired and our productivity decreases a lot.

What’s the golden rule? What’s the perfect solution, then?

Chris Bailey in his book The Productivity Project (available HERE) talks about an experiment that he did. Namely, he worked alternate weeks for a very different amount of hours. One week he worked 20 hours and another one 90 hours, and in this way he did several weeks.

An important lesson that he realised? That while working 90 hours he did only a bit more work than while working 20 hours!

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When he had only 20 hours to do his tasks, he felt a bit of pressure that his time was so limited so he focused on using his more valuable time (when he had most energy and attention) to do the most important, difficult and meaningful tasks. With that limited amount of time it was also easier not to procrastinate too much (and, apparently, it’s impossible to completely avoid procrastinating) because he had to focus on what must be done, on priorities! During the 20-hour-work week he had more time to recharge and restore his energy levels in various ways too (meditation, exercising, sleeping well, socialising, etc.).

When we work a lot, it’s hard to remember all the time what’s most important, what we should pay more attention to, what’s the bigger picture. Although we work more, we don’t have enough energy and focus to do planning or to do it properly, and to think of possible improvements and solutions to various problems.

Chris dug deep in his research to find out the ideal amount of hours that one should be working so as not to get too tired and to be able to complete a lot of tasks in a productive way. He found that although 46 hours felt like the best working week for him most studies indicate that 35-40 hours a week is perfect to get the job done with maximum productivity.

Surely the more you enjoy your job, the more you are able to work. However, breaks and time to rest are crucial for your creativity, maintaining an innovative and open-minded thinking and approach, and your efficiency.

How many hours a week do you work? Do you have any control over it? Can you improve this aspect in your life to become more productive?

Personal Growth project. When things don’t always go as they should.

What do you do and how do you feel if some days you can’t really do what you plan to do? Do you just ignore it, accept it and keep going or do you get frustrated? Life is unpredictable and it’s difficult to be prepared for everything. We may feel hopeless, but it’s important to remember that some aspects we CAN control and some others we won’t be able to. If we can’t control something – why waste time on worrying and getting stressed about it? If we can control something – again, why allow too many negative emotions to cross our mind? We can decide what to change and how so as to make our plans work.

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This week’s Personal Growth project update isn’t what I thought it would be because the third week of January has surprised me a lot…

Apparently the last two weeks have been the worst in England in terms of the amount of people suffering with flu. Most of my family is sick, including me. I’m actually recovering from tonsillitis, not flu, but that’s not that different really. A bad sore throat kept me awake for nearly three nights. I had to keep working full-time (a long story…) and when you are in your third trimester of pregnancy such a combination of circumstances is not much fun… I felt stressed, weak and unproductive. And as you can see I still feel a bit like complaining about everything ;). I really don’t like to feel this way.

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On the other hand, I try to focus on the positive whenever I can and I’m actually quite surprised that I did anything at all related to my project this week! I did a bit of writing, and  I uploaded some blog posts on time according to my new schedule (Productive Mondays, Happy Wednesdays and weekends with Personal Development). I was reading books and doing some research, and kept my social media related to my project mostly up to date. I should try not to get too frustrated that I haven’t done enough/much this week when there is a good reason for that and I think being ill is probably a good reason. 😉 haha

If your week wasn’t great then maybe you will stop for a moment to consider one of my favourite quotes which  always makes me feel better in such situations:

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What could that reason be this time? Maybe just a simple reminder to slow down once in a while, not to review your goals, but actually to forget about the goals for a few days and re-charge the batteries.

As I mentioned during the project prep time – a flexible approach is, and always will be, critical here (as long as I don’t use it as an excuse to procrastinate! ;)). I think I should write the word FLEXIBILITY on a white board in my kitchen to keep this in mind all the time 😉 Without this attitude I’d probably already feel that I’ve failed. If you allow yourself some flexibility and try to get back to a positive mindset whenever you can then surely you won’t fail and you won’t disappoint yourself! 😉

And let me share one more favourite reminder which keeps me motivated in difficult moments:

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How has your week been going? How have you been doing with your goals?

New releases in the field of self-development!

What hot new releases will be discussed this year in the media? Here are a few noteworthy new books related to self-development which will be released very soon (and can be pre-ordered):

  1. Crushing It! – by Gary Vaynerchuk (famous motivational speaker). It will be released on 30th January 2018 but can be pre-ordered (available here).

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2. The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win –by Jeff Haden. This book will be published on 9th January 2018 and of course can be pre-ordered (available here)

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3. The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store – by Cait Flanders. The book will be released on 16th January 2018 and can be pre-ordered here

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4. Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff – by Dana K. White. It will be published on 27th February and can be pre-ordered here

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5. Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten Hansen. The book will be published on 30th January 2018. It can be pre-ordered here

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Any titles in this genre that you’ve read and  would recommend? Please comment below.

How much does your self-development matter to you?

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This Christmas Santa has been very generous 🙂 to me and I’ve received some wonderful pressies, including some books I’ve really wanted to have for a while:

  • Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferris (available here)
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (available here )
  • Grit: Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success by Angela Duckworth (available here)
  • The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferris (available here)
  • The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey (available here)

I’ve decided that this blog will be a good place to post books reviews once in a while. What do you think? Have you read any books about personal development, time management or motivation?

These books used to be called ‘self-help’ books and I think because of this their reputation has been somewhat damaged. Some people don’t buy them because they say they that don’t need any help with finding out how to prioritise their life or they don’t have a problem with time management and so on…

I’m glad that the industry has been changing and now these titles are called self-development’ rather than ‘self-help’ books! I’m glad that people are starting to realise how important personal growth is and that it should not be a luxury but a necessity.

Personal growth doesn’t just help to keep you sane and away from mental health disorders but it’s a lot more than that. When you do what you love, when you commit to lifelong learning and improve your skills and knowledge, you feel more positive, happy and satisfied with your life. Naturally, the more optimistic you are, the more positive your approach and thoughts, and this will have an impact on others around you too, on your relationships and on various other aspects of your life.

The happier you are, the more successful you can become.

Happiness drives performance, not the other way around.

Contrary to what many people say, investing in your own personal development is not egoistical and selfish. It’s something that makes us better human beings in many aspects, also in social terms.

I’m wondering if you are interested in such self-development titles. What book(s) have you been recently reading?

Why 92% people don’t achieve their personal goals?

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about why I didn’t achieve some goals in the past and I realised a few things. I believe many of these reasons would be the same or similar for most of you as well (please comment below if you agree!)

  1. I achieve goals IF I’m asked to do them by someone important at work or at a university. So if a lecturer tells me to write a 5,000-word essay in 3 weeks, I’ll write a 5,000-word essay within 3 weeks. I asked for an extension a few times while studying my two degrees and working at the same time but an extension meant 3-7 additional days. No more. If I tell myself to write 2,000 words in 2 weeks sometimes it may take me 2 or 4 months!

I keep postponing my deadlines because they are MY deadlines. It’s kind of understandable. If I don’t perform well at work, I may lose my job and have no income for a while. If I don’t execute my own goals ‘nothing’ really happens … except that my well-being will probably decrease and I’ll feel like a failure. I’ll also complain about not being able to achieve my aims, and get all sorts of negative thoughts about not progressing much and staying at the same point of my personal growth for too long.

It’s quite disappointing that actually many of us don’t take our own personal objectives seriously enough. We don’t think of ourselves and our aims as priorities and complete them only when everything else is done. I must admit it’s difficult, especially for a working parent, to manage to do a lot when each day has only 24 hours but I’m confident that this can be improved. I don’t believe in making excuses because most people on the Earth DON’T have perfect conditions, resources and circumstances. Yet, some are more disciplined, consistent and perhaps stubborn, and are able to achieve what they want to and dream about!

  1. I’m too strict and I tend to expect too much from myself. I plan and want to do too many tasks in too short a time without thinking much about all the unpredictable things that can happen in life.

I’ve been impressed with writer Gretchen Rubin’s goal to blog 6 days a week. It’s actually a very challenging task, especially if you are a working parent. You may simply not feel well enough some days. Sometimes I don’t have any Me Time at all! HOWEVER, as with everything, I’ve learnt that there is actually a solution for such a problem! My friend (talented author Carol Browne – please see her blog here ) taught me that anyone can schedule their blog posts. How great is that!

I believe I can still expect QUITE a lot from myself but then I also need to:

be more self-disciplined,

try to work smarter and harder

and have a bit more flexible approach which means:

  • to review goals and action plans, e.g. on a weekly basis, think of ways of how to change them to make them work better
  • and try out more consistently various productivity tips.

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    3. Fear is another big factor. Consciously or sub-consciously I don’t always believe that I’m good enough, that I have enough knowledge or skills or qualifications to do something I enjoy doing. So yes, there is fear of not being able to do my goals to the standard that I want (perfectionism!). I wouldn’t say it aloud much but surely there is some fear of criticism and some days I  lack of confidence while working on my goals! It’s difficult to be highly motivated all the time especially when you don’t see progress quickly. Then you lose focus and try to find the reasons as to why your goals haven’t been achieved yet … But – everything worth doing takes time – they say.

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     4. Most of the time I didn’t have an action plan at all, let alone a good one. The idea of writing down goals and steps/actions in the form of an action plan always sounded a bit ridiculous to me … BUT there has been a lot of research which proves that people who write their goals down and who have action plans are A LOT more likely to achieve their objectives.

     5. Often I used to think I work hard on my goals but when I think about it now I can      see that I didn’t put enough effort in, or I stopped doing some of the tasks and taking action for days, weeks or even months (!) due to other commitments (work, family, taking care of the house). How can you achieve anything if you work in such an ineffective way?

Phew … It was really difficult to get to the bottom of the issue and to find out why I don’t achieve some of my personal goals. The answers aren’t always as straightforward as we think they may be. This didn’t feel like a very comfortable task but it’s definitely something that finally HAD TO be done in order for me to better myself and consider how I can achieve my goals in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

How to plan your 2018 GOALS smartly?

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Quite a few statistics I’ve come across indicate that approximately 92% of people who plan New Year resolutions give up on them within around a month! This is a shocking number. If you asked me about the stats before I found this information, I’d have thought it was more like a 50/50 or 40/60 ratio.

Isn’t that one of the most discouraging and demotivating statistics you’ve ever heard of?

What do you do to ensure that you are among the remaining 8% of people who get what they want in life?

Firstly we need to understand that our dreams are not goals, and vice versa.

Dreams become goals only if you are willing to work on them, if you specify them, write them down, prepare an action plan, and in any other way show commitment and effort; and naturally when you take action towards achieving them.

  • Specify:Think what your biggest dreams are and which ones you can and want to pursue. Think what you could do to fulfil them.

 

  • Be Realistic: When someone says, “Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable”, I think, “Well, if Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, (two American inventors, engineers and aviators) had thought what was realistic, what had been done before, what people of their time were able to do, they would NEVER have built and flown the world’s first airplane in 1903! If Einstein, Edison or Darwin had listened to others and had tried to set SMART goals (*goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time specific), then they surely wouldn’t have got as far as they did because many things that they invented or discovered weren’t thought to be realistic or achievable in their lifetimes!

On the other hand, it is commonly stressed in psychology-related books and articles that people OFTEN overestimate what can be done in a year and underestimate what can be done in 5 or 10 years. And certainly there is some truth in it as well. Surely we can do a lot in just one year BUT some goals such as writing books or becoming an expert in a chosen discipline may take more than a year.

It also depends on your circumstances, although they are not as vital as you think because even if you haven’t the resources you believe you need, you may find other ways around it to achieve your goals. To tell the truth people rarely have an ideal situation (enough money, contacts, time and so on).

  • Action plans:According to many different studies, people who write their goals down are more likely to achieve them. I didn’t know how important an action plan was before someone advised me to do it. I used to think I work hard on my goals but with the right action plan I’ve realised I didn’t put enough effort into my goals before.

A good action plan, and most of all FOLLOWING IT, is a real eye-opener!

I’ve realised that many people get frustrated and/or fail because they don’t plan any tasks with regard to their goals at all (and think, e.g. “I’ll learn Spanish when I find some time for it.” ) or make their action plans too strict. I used to be one of those people. For instance, I planned that I’d do something EVERY SINGLE DAY for the next X months or years! There is a quote I really like which says:

You can do anything but not everything.

Yes, so dream big, make sure you prepare and plan your goals well but DON’T forget that you need to have a flexible approach to it. For example, I have a four-year-old daughter and I’m going to give birth again in March 2018, and I’m sure that there will be days when I am not able to write anything.

Additionally to all these things that we can predict there are ALWAYS some things that we CAN’T predict. You may have to change your job and you won’t be able to exercise, write articles, design clothes or work on your business idea in the early mornings as you planned; or you may need to move and many of us know how time-consuming it is. Rather than getting irritated that we can’t have it all and do everything we want to, we should design our action plans quite flexibly – a good idea may be to write down what you will focus mostly on in each month of the next year and plan the month ahead only a few days before it starts. 

  • Reviews: Planning November or even April next year when life gets so unpredictable sometimes seems like a huge challenge. During the next year you may find out ways and techniques of working better on your goals (for example, you may do an online marketing course and find out how you can find more clients for your business) because we are constantly learning. You may get some good advice from others who achieve their goals or you may decide that your real passion and true goals are a bit different from what you thought they were. Therefore, it would be best if you review your goals and action plan regularly, for example at the end of every month(some people would prefer to do it every quarter).

 

  • Modifications: And the most important point – changing or adjusting your goals does not mean that you give up on them or that you failed. As long as you have grit and put passion and real effort into whatever you’d like to do it still counts! There definitely will be days when you will have doubts and lose your confidence but remember these are JUST YOUR THOUGHTSgenerated by your own mind. If you need a break, take a few days’ break, don’t think about your goals at all and then with a fresh eye and energy consider what you can improve to become more productive and effective, and to accelerate your progress.

 

I’m very interested in what you think about this and what your plans for 2018 are!